Avraham Sutton – “Who Knows Eight?”
Who Knows Eight?
That the overt miracle of Chanuka, the lighting of the Menorah, lasted for eight days, is not accidental, but intrinsic. The Torah informs us that G-d created the world in six days and ceased working on the seventh, the Shabbat. The number six can thus be said to represent the natural world that was created in six days (time) with its six spatial directions (east-west, north-south, up-down). The number seven represents G-d’s immanence, the hidden presence of the Divine at the heart and core of this world. In other words, seven is the very soul of six, permeating it, instilling it with (transcendent) holiness, and elevating it to its perfection. The next number, eight, represents G-d’s transcendence above and beyond this world. Like all miracles, Chanuka happened from the level of “eight”, that which is beyond natural law. However, being the last miracle of its kind until the coming of Mashiach, Chanuka had to embody “eight” in a unique, special way. It had to breathe “eight”. This oil represents…the Jew’s potential to awaken from the deepest slumber of exile
In Hebrew, the word shemonah (eight) has the same exact letters as hashemen (the oil), neshama (soul), and mishna (transmitted teaching). As recorded in the Talmud, the Syrian-Greeks had entered the Temple and sullied all its oil. This oil represents the deepest level of the Jewish soul. It represents the Jew’s potential to awaken from the deepest slumber of exile, to come to life even (and perhaps especially) under the most trying circumstances. Only one jar of pure oil was found, sealed with the seal of the Kohen Gadol (high priest), the holiest Jew, who embodied the level of “eight” by virtue of the eight special garments he wore when serving in the Temple.
The siddur informs us that it was Mattityahu the Chashmonai (Mattithiah the Hasmonean) and his sons who rallied the Jews to defend the Torah and fight against the Greeks. The name Chashmonai has two components, the letter chet, the eighth letter of the aleph-bet, followed by the word for oil, shemen. Thus, the Cha–shemonai family embodied the power of Eight. Eight beckons us to transcend the constrictions of time and space
“Eight” beckons us to transcend the constrictions of time and space, to see through a world that disguises G-dliness and threatens to engulf our souls in materiality. “Eight” calls us to see miracles in the order of nature, in confusing events of our individual and collective lives, in the hidden pathways of Divine Providence that guide us.
“Eight” can rouse us from our collective slumber. By reminding us of the time when G-d did indeed overtly “interfere” with and “alter” the “natural” course of history, it quickens our anticipation of the revelation of G-d’s salvation that we await in our time.